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i still have transphobic views? *trigger warning*

Discussion in 'Gender Identity and Expression' started by Dryad, Mar 23, 2019.

  1. Dryad

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    Hello people, I'm cis and I admit I don't understand a lot of things about trans people. The other day I was discussing with my partner, who is quite transphobic, and I was trying to be an ally by explaining him why he was wrong, but on the way I realized that it was hard for me, and that I probably still had transphobic views myself. Posting here about that was my last resort because I thought it was unfair of me to ask people to explain themselves. I did some reading and watched some YouTube videos about but still didn't reach a conclusion. So, I decided to post, and I'll be very grateful to whomever helps me shed some light.

    So, in brief, what I don't understand, is why most transgender people transition medically. My partner used the term "disorder" to describe being transgender, so I went on to explain him the difference between sex and gender, how some people don't fit in the box they were put in right after birth and how there's nothing wrong with that. And then I reached (what I perceived to be) a deadend. I was trying to tell him "being trans is normal and transness is not a disorder" but I still felt what I was saying was conflicting, because most trans people I've heard of felt a big amount of dysphoria in relation to their bodies, to the point of getting multiple surgeries to get rid of it, and in my mind, getting medical treatment to ease a source of distress, means that there is indeed a disorder present. At that point, my arguments weren't strong enough anymore.

    I see how viewing transness as a disorder or source of a disorder can be used to invalidate the identity of transgender people, and my partner was trying to do exactly that. I understand that whatever it is that people identify as gender-wise is valid, whether they've had surgeries or not, because the experience of gender is something very personal and subjective; I can't prove or disprove anyone's gender and there's also no point in doing that; I believe that the "true" gender of someone is the one they say it is. I don't see the very idea of identifying as a different gender than the one society identified you with, as being wrong, on moral, medical or any other ground. This is a fact for me, therefore I'm trying to reconcile it with the idea that transness most often comes with the distressing experience of dysphoria, that needs medical attention.

    So, the question is: Is it possible to be transgender without experiencing physical dysphoria? If not, and transness is inseperable from dysphoria, does this mean that being trans is a medical condition, where the physical body is wrong and has to be fixed to match the brain?
     
  2. denouement

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    Big question. I'll give it a go.

    It's more than that. Pretty much all the studies done so far suggest being transgender has a biological basis. There is no consensus yet, but at the moment, the leading theory has to do with hormonal development in the womb
    (Also, here is where I ask anyone who is more up to date, feel free to jump in and correct me on any of this. It's been a while since I've dug into the research myself.)

    Here is a simplified summary for you. There are studies waiting for you on Google for the detailed version.

    The brain develops first, before the body. It can be "male", "female", or sometimes something else ("nonbinary"). Science shows that in general, male and female brains develop differently. Not a hard dichotomy... there is certainly overlap, so it's more of a very general grouping. This is the source of "gender"-- the experience of thoughts, feelings, etc that are typical of one gender or another.
    The body develops second, "male" "female" and sometimes "intersex". Obviously there is a difference in bodies-- this is "sex".
    For cisgender people-- most people-- the sex and gender will match. A "male"-bodied person will have a more "male" brain.
    In some cases, a "male" brain (gender) develops, but during the next part, the body (sex) develops as "female". This leads to a disconnect between brain and body. A difference in gender and sex. There are many studies showing that trans women have brains more similar to cis women than cis men (and so on).

    The brain has a "map" of the body. This is how you know where you are in space, what parts are where, and how you can sense things like pressure and temperature. For males, this "map" matches with a male body. For females, it matches a female body. For most people, these two parts, gender and sex, line up so perfectly that it seems like one cohesive experience.
    For transgender people, since the brain and body don't match, the "map" doesn't align with that person's body. In my case, my gender is male, and my brain has the map for a male body. But my body developed as a female body. So, I am a transgender male.

    Now, what about dysphoria?
    Your brain constantly checks your body to give updates and detect anything unusual or wrong. It consults the map as it does so. If it finds something that doesn't match the map, like a paper cut or an illness, it sends a warning signal, like pain, or a temperature, to tell you something is wrong (you have a cut, or you are getting sick). You can then take medicine or put on a bandaid, or wait for your body to heal and fix the problem on it's own.
    This also accounts for things like phantom limb syndrome, where people "feel" a part that isn't there. Their brain's map says they have that part, so when it runs the map check it says, "hey, five fingers, great!" However, their body only has four fingers. So maybe they "feel" five fingers, or maybe the signal gets kind of mixed up and they have "pain" that seems to come from that missing finger.

    For trans people, the experience is like this:

    Every time my brain notices something on my body that doesn't match the map, it sends off a warning signal to let me know something is probably wrong. But instead of finding a cut, which is fixed with a band-aid, or an illness, which is fixed by taking medicine or sending my immune system to combat it..... my brain alerts on the various female parts of my body which don't match the "male" map. And then it sends off a distress signal.
    Because I am constantly in the same body, it sends this signal constantly. All the time. Every single day.
    Because my body is physically healthy and functions fine, there's no quick fix for the parts that don't match my mental "body map". My immune system can't fight it. A band-aid won't help it heal. It won't go away on it's own.
    But my brain doesn't know that.

    The experience of this dissonance between body and brain, and the resulting warning signal, is usually referred to as "dysphoria".

    Going by this theory, trans people begin to experience dysphoria... "know they are trans"... at different stages of life because that's when their body and "brain map" differ significantly enough to trigger that "dysphoria" warning signal. Some people know at childhood because their map and body were significantly different from birth. For me, it was close enough that only the big changes during puberty threw it out of alignment. For some people, it lines up enough they may not have an issue until they are an adult, when that distress signal has been echoing for a while and finally they notice, hey, maybe something is going on here.
    Also, social pressure might cause some people to hide their feelings or misattribute it to something else. So some trans people who figure out "later" might have been pressured to ignore their dysphoria, or thought it was caused by something else, until later in life.

    Also going by this theory, it accounts for different levels of dysphoria. For some people, the map/body is close enough that something like wearing different clothes or a prosthetic will "trick" the brain into thinking everything is okay. For other people, they require medical transition to make their body match their map. What kind and how much depends on the person and their own body/brain.

    Yes. When people say this, they usually mean "This is a thing that is unnatural, it does not really exist." It's not unnatural, and it does exist... according to the current science. It's a natural thing that unfortunately happens to some people.
    Sometimes when people say this, they might mean "This is a mental disorder, it's all in your head." And yes, there was once a diagnosis of "Gender Identity Disorder", which was considered a mental illness. The idea was that gender(mind)=sex(body)... that your gender is caused by/based on your sex, and something was wrong in a transgender person's brain to make them think they are a different gender than their body suggests. BUT, this has since been removed from the DMV, because we learned more about it and discovered gender and sex are two different things. So it's not just a mental issue, it's not "all in your head", it's literally how the brain is wired.

    Doctors now refer to "Gender Dysphoria" or "Gender Incongruence", which is not considered a mental disorder, but is instead a description of the distress caused when one's gender/sex don't match. Gender Dysphoria can be treated through transition.

    When you say that you consider a disorder to be something requiring medical treatment, you probably are trying to refer to dysphoria, the condition requiring medical treatment. Being transgender doesn't require medical treatment any more than being asian or brown-eyed or bisexual. Even before realizing they are dysphoric, and even after having their dysphoria treated in whatever way is appropriate, the person is still transgender.

    I will note this is a controversial topic in the community. The person may not consider themselves to be transgender. A lot of trans folks just want to be a girl/guy/nb person, and don't want to be considered a trans woman (or etc) until the end of time. So from a politeness standpoint, you should check if they are okay with that term first.

    This is also a controversial topic in the community. There is a lot of discussion about whether non-dysphoric trans folks should be included in the same capacity, since they may face slightly different issues. There is also a lot of concern about whether including non-dysphoric folks could impact accessibility to the necessary healthcare and treatments for dysphoric folks.

    So, some people take this to the extreme and say that you Must Have Dysphoria to be transgender.
    If you can't tell, my opinion is that non-dysphoric folks can be trans. Again going off the theory, the brain/body might be off enough to be considered "transgender", but not enough to set off warning bells and cause them dysphoria.... or not enough to require medical transition to fix it. So, I think they likely experience dysphoria in a different way (you may see references to "social" dysphoria)... or to a much smaller extent... possibly they experience the same kind of dysphoria as "dysphoric" trans folks, but choose not to label it as such, or misattribute it to something else.

    So, I'm going to say "yes, it's possible"... but some trans folks will say "no, you must have dysphoria." Science has yet to say anything definitive on the matter, and so until then it remains controversial.

    Yes. We like to think that a person's "true" self is in the brain. For example your personality, likes and dislikes are all from your brain, not based on appearance. So, it's now agreed that a person's gender is correct, even if their body doesn't quite match up.

    Also as a very quick language note, "being transgender" is preferable to "transness" in much the same way "being gay" is preferable to "gayness". Not like, offensive, but just preferable.

    Hope this helps. Again anyone more up-to-date feel free to correct me here.
     
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  3. Mihael

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    Transgenderism is a physical condition that can cause a lot of psychological discomfort, even if not lethal by itself. So is it a disorder? It probably lies somewhere in the gray area. But it is not a mental health disorder or a delusion. It's more like a nose so crooked that it irks you all the time and/or makes it difficult to function socially. I hope I explained?

    You touched on a topic here that causes arguments within the trans community.
     
  4. Litebrite

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    Not a doctor lol but... my way of looking at it is treatment for a mental dissorder is also psychological in nature, while you cannot exclusively treat gender dysphoria psychologically, as the main issue I lies in a person body does not match up with there mind.

    Personally there is nothing you can tell me, or direct me way in thinking about my body that makes that incredibly deep personal experience change.

    Ultimately I don't think it's really up to cis folks to 'get it' or even feel they have to understand it. It's about personal experience and if transitioning helps in feeling decreasing another human beings pain I would hope cis folks would just be supportive and not add to what is already an unbelievably difficult life experience.

    Sorry not trying to sound defensive, I'm actually trying to say I don't think there is a way for all experiences to be fully understood by those who have not lived them. I can't fully understand the experiences of a person of color, or a person who lived through war, the trials of a refugee, ect. I can only listen to what they think, felt, saw and hurt and know that while I haven't lived those events I have the same human emotions.

    Ok so I guess in summation, maybe you don't need to worry so much about personally understanding or trying to get others to understand. Maybe you can just focus more on the fact ither people are hurting, there are ways to lesson that hurt, and you can be supportive in the ways that particular human hurt can be lessoned.

    It's hard stuff, from what you said I think you are already being a great ally!